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About this Edition of ADAAG

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark law that protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities.  It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government services, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and telecommunications.   To ensure access to the built environment, the ADA requires the establishment of design criteria for the construction and alteration of facilities covered by the law.  These requirements, which were developed by the Access Board, are known as the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). 

ADAAG serves as the basis for standards used to enforce the design requirements of the ADA.  These standards are maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  It is these standards that the public is required to follow.  Regulations issued from these agencies provide important information on using and applying the standards. 

As originally published in July 1991, ADAAG addressed places of public accommodation and commercial facilities in the private sector.  This reprint of ADAAG includes supplements issued by the Access Board that cover:

  • state and local government facilities (1998)
  •  building elements designed for children’s use (1998)
  • play areas  (2000)
  •  recreation facilities (2002)

These four supplements add new specifications to the guidelines and also revise existing provisions.   They have not yet been incorporated into the DOJ and DOT standards and thus are not enforceable at this time.  However, they provide helpful guidance in providing access to the various types of facilities they cover.

This document reflects existing ADAAG provisions. The Access Board is in the process of updating its accessibility guidelines for buildings and facilities covered by the ADA and the ABA. When a final rule is issued it will be available on the Board’s website and through the Federal Register.





Automated Teller Machines (1993)

The Board revised specifications for automated teller machines pertaining to clear floor space (4.35.2) and control heights (4.35.3).  These changes are reflected in the enforceable standards.


Detectable Warnings (1994 – 2001)

ADAAG requires detectable warnings, a distinctively textured surface detectable by cane and underfoot, on the surface of curb ramps to provide a tactile cue for persons with vision impairments of their approach to streets (4.7.7). They are also required at hazardous vehicular areas (4.29.5), reflecting pools (4.29.6), and the edges of boarding platforms in transit facilities (10.3.1(8)).  The Board temporarily suspended these requirements (except those applicable to boarding platforms) in 1994 due to concerns raised about the technical specifications, the availability of complying products, maintenance issues such as snow and ice removal, usefulness, and safety.  DOJ and DOT joined the Board in this action, which effectively removed the requirement from the enforceable standards.   The suspension, which was further extended, expired on July 26, 2001.  The requirements for detectable warnings at curb ramps and other areas are again part of ADAAG and the enforceable standards. 


State and Local Government Facilities (1998)

ADAAG, as originally published, addressed private sector facilities (places of public accommodation and commercial facilities).  The Board added supplements that cover occupancies specific to the state and local government sectors.  These include new occupancy sections on judicial, legislative, and regulatory facilities (Section 11) and detention and correctional facilities (Section 12).  In addition, various provisions were revised or added for application to state and local government facilities generally:


  • new definitions for terms used in the supplements (3.5)
  • new general exceptions (4.1.1(5)(b)) and exceptions for elevators and platform lifts (4.1.3(5) exceptions 1, 4(e), and 5)
  • revised scoping provisions for entrances (4.1.3(8)) and public telephones with TTYs (4.1.3(17)(c))
  • new requirements for sales and service counters (7.2(3)) and airport security screening devices (10.4.1(8))
  • new advisory material that clarifies provisions in the supplements (appendix)


These changes are not yet reflected in the enforceable standards. 


Building Elements Designed for Children’s Use (1998)

ADAAG, like most other accessibility guidelines, provided specifications based only on adult dimensions.  The Board added alternate specifications based on children’s dimensions that can be used where certain building elements are designed specifically for children’s use.  These alternate specifications address:


  • drinking fountains (4.15.5)
  • water closets (4.16.1 and 4.16.7)
  • toilet stalls (4.17.1 and 4.17.7)
  • lavatories (4.19.1 and 4.19.2) and sinks (4.25.3)
  • fixed or built-in seating and tables (4.32.1 and 4.32.5)


Advisory information was added to the appendix that addresses children’s reach ranges (A4.2.5 and A4.2.6), handrails at ramps and stairs (A4.8.5 and A4.9.5), water closets and toilet stalls (A4.16.7 and A4.17.7), mirrors (A4.19.6) and storage and controls (A4.25.3 and A4.27.3).  


These changes are not yet reflected in the enforceable standards. 


Play Areas (2000) and Recreation Facilities (2002)

A new occupancy section was added to address various types of recreation facilities (Section 15).  This section covers access to amusement rides (15.1), boating facilities (15.2), fishing piers and platforms (15.3), golf courses (15.4), miniature golf courses (15.5), play areas (15.6), exercise equipment, bowling lanes, and shooting facilities (15.7), and swimming pools, wading pools and spas (15.8).  In addition, existing sections of the guidelines were supplemented by the addition of:


  • references to industry standards used in the new guidelines (2.3)
  • definitions for terms used in the new provisions (3.5)
  • general exceptions (4.1.1(5)(b)(iv-vii))
  • provisions and exceptions for accessible routes (4.1.2(2)(b), 4.1.2(3) exception, 4.1.2(4) exceptions 1 and 2; and 4.1.3(1)(b), 4.1.3(2) exception, 4.1.3(3) exceptions 1 and 2, 4.1.3(5) exception 4(f))
  • scoping provisions for lockers (4.1.3(12)(c))
  • an exception for exercise equipment (4.1.3(13), exception)
  • supplementary scoping provisions for team and player seating areas (4.13(19)(c))
  • scoping and technical provisions for locker rooms (4.1.3(21), 4.35.1, and 4.35.4) and saunas and steam rooms (4.1.3(22) and 4.36)
  • technical provisions for benches (4.37)
  • advisory material that clarifies various provisions (appendix)

These changes are not yet reflected in the enforceable standards. 

Additional guidance on ADAAG and its provisions is available on this site.


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